Baby Elephant Walk
Original Artist: Henry Mancini
Original Album: Hatari (1962)
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Demonstrating that no musical genre is off limits, “Baby Elephant Walk” dips into the “cocktail culture” music of the late fifties and early sixties. One of the most successful film composers of all time and perhaps most famous for his score to The Pink Panther, Henry Mancini penned this song for the 1962 film Hatari! Phish first performed this tune on 12/1/92 in Granville, OH, during an extended intro to “David Bowie.” This gig was made available as a Live Phish archival release in 2003.
The only other version is a memorable one, as it provided the soundtrack for one of the great theatrical gags of Phish’s career. On the second day of Lemonwheel (8/16/98), a 20-foot-tall mechanical elephant sitting to the right side of the stage greeted the assembled crowd. After the glowstick-filled “Harry Hood” encore, the band members gathered around the small stone temple containing a fire that had been lit the night before after the “Ambient Jam,” and that had been burning continuously throughout the show on Sunday. Trey lit a tiki-torch from the temple, which he then used to ignite a fuse that ran around the stage toward the waiting elephant. During the time the fuse was on its journey, Fishman began to coax the elephant to life, using his trombone to imitate elephant sounds. When the fuse found its way to the elephant, it came to life amid a cloud of smoke, lifting its trunk and spraying water over the nearby crowd. A massive fireworks display was then unleashed over the brilliant Maine sky. As the band played “Baby Elephant Walk,” the elephant marched off towards the campgrounds, led by tiki-torch bearers and followed by many in the crowd, humming along to the infectious rhythms of the band.